House Republicans Move To End Medicare’s Promise, Again

Posted on by Karina

Medicare—which has provided health care for Americans age 65 and older for more than 40 years—is working, and was strengthened under health reform with better benefits, lower costs, and increased solvency.

In addition to voting to repeal added Affordable Care Act benefits like free preventative care and closing the prescription drug donut hole, House Republicans are once again talking about abolishing Medicare in its current form, and replacing our promise to America’s seniors with a voucher for private insurance that declines in value over time. According to National Journal, the GOP plan would:

“…convert Medicare into a voucher program, which would effectively turn the government-backed health care program over to private insurers”

“…would increase premiums for seniors…”

“…could sway seniors to buy less comprehensive plans that don’t cover nearly the same services that Medicare does…”

“…the eligibility age for Medicare would increase incrementally from its current 65 years of age to 69…”

We’ve seen this plan before—House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) included it in his “Roadmap for America’s Future” with nearly 80% of House Republicans voting in favor. The nonpartisan CBO explained that the amount of the voucher would grow much more slowly than health care costs with the burden of rising health care costs falling on seniors. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post summarizes:

The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they’d need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health care they purchase…. This proposal would take Medicare from costing an expected 14.3 percent of GDP in 2080 to less than 4 percent. That’s trillions of dollars that’s not going to health care for seniors. The audacity is breathtaking.

Far from being just the Budget Chairman’s plan, both Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) endorsed the plan in their “Young Guns” book and National Journal reports that Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) “expects Republicans to support a provision to convert Medicare into a voucher system.”

Democrats are committed to preserving our bedrock promise to seniors, not making them even more vulnerable to the whims of insurance companies.

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